A lukewarm movie about success and failure in the fashion world, grounded by an absolutely diabolical performance by Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly, the dominatrix editor of fictional Runway magazine.
Anne Hathaway is Andy Sachs, a too-cool-for-school journalist who thinks a job as Priestly’s “second assistant” will catapult her into the glamorous world of magazine editorial. Sachs learns things the hard way, as her frozen-hearted boss makes one unattainable demand after another, the least of which is that her Starbucks coffee be hot, hot, hot.
Hathaway infuses her character with all the whininess she can muster, which becomes tiresome before she, gratefully, stiffens up and tries to beat the editor at her own game. Stanley Tucci, as Runway’s artistic director, brings a delicious whip-crack timing to his dialogue, particularly when he persists in the notion that Sachs is a “size six” (or in fashion parlance, the new eight). And Emily Blunt has an Oscar-worthy supporting role as Miranda’s “first assistant,” a caustic sycophant who sees Andy Sachs as the worst kind of threat: an intelligent one.
The film, unfortunately, brings nothing new in terms of the old “fish out of water” theme. There’s an unnecessary subplot involving Sachs and a book publisher (Simon Baker), who uses the writer for his own gain. Adrian Grenier has a thankless role as Andy’s loyal boyfriend, who bristles at the idea that the woman he loves has sold her soul for a shot at fame.
But the movie is about Streep, and, really, isn’t that sometimes enough? She makes her mark from her first introduction, as she peers from beneath a veil of silver hair, her eyes ablaze with contempt. Every word she utters feels as though its about to snap on her tongue. Near the end, we get a glimpse of startling vulnerability, as Priestly inadvertently confides in Andy that yet another marriage is about to come to an end. In some ways, this is one of Streep’s best performances, as I don’t think we’ve ever seen her so positively venomous. And thank God for that.